As a vast and highly diverse region, Asia requires a comprehensive and sustainable approach to ensure a mutually beneficial relationship with the EU. Through our multiple programmes with our Asian partners, we cooperate on both global and specific issues facing the region.
Asia comprises multiple sub-regions including South Asia, East Asia, and Southeast Asia. The region represents enormously diverse countries in terms of population sizes, languages, ethnicities, religions, traditions, cultures, economic and social conditions. Asia makes up 55% of the world’s population and contains some of the wealthiest and most industrialised countries, as well as 8 of the poorest countries in the world.
Several Asian countries, particularly in South Asia are currently experiencing violent conflicts, terrorism or regional tensions. Extreme poverty remains at over 20% in several economies, especially in South Asia, Myanmar (Burma) and Laos. The region continues to be exposed to the impacts of climate change and natural disasters.
Our cooperation with Asia is focussed on spreading know-how and informing policies in various areas, including the environment, energy, climate change, the green economy, and higher education. Assistance to people on the move affected by natural disasters or conflict is another main area of our support. The Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) allows for an informal dialogue about the cooperation process, addressing such issues between EU countries, Switzerland and Russia, the European Commission, 20 Asian countries and the secretariat of the Association of Southeast Asian nations (ASEAN).
The bulk of EU funding is allocated to assist the poorest countries. We support regional organisations in Asia, such as ASEAN and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), which aim to increase trade liberalisation and regional integration.
A few of our projects with our Asian partners rely on the Asia Investment Facility (AIF) for financing. Created in 2010 and in line with the regional strategy for Asia, the main purpose of the AIF is to promote investments and infrastructure development. Its focus is on climate change, the environment, energy, small and medium sized enterprises and social sector services.
Helping up to 70,000 micro, small and medium sized enterprisesThe SWITCH Asia programme helps companies adopt ‘clean’ technologies and practices through project grants, and national and regional policy support.
Funding over 11,000 students, researchers and academic staffThe Erasmus+ programme has enabled 1,375 bilateral partnership projects, organising the mobilisation of over 18,000 students, researchers, and academic staff between Asia and Europe, with 11,801 from Asia to Europe.
Nearly €5 billion of private investmentsThrough grants, technical assistance and guarantees worth €214 million, the AIF has mobilised investments from banks and the private sector.
Our cooperation with Asia takes place at regional and country levels. We aim to support Asia in tackling its environmental and social challenges, providing customised assistance to regional cooperation efforts. Through fostering experts’ knowledge in a set of rules for conflict management, the EU-Asia security cooperation is deepened and engagement with regional security structures is enhanced.
Between 2014-2020 under the multiannual indicative programme for Asia, we allocated €6.5 billion to national and regional programmes in Asian countries. Through the strategic use of funds for technical assistance, investment grants and guarantees, the AIF mobilised a similar amount in private investments between 2012-2018. The main recipients of these funds were Myanmar (20%), India and Vietnam (each 14%).
We seek to promote the region’s transition towards a green economy through projects in sustainable consumption and production techniques. This includes efforts to leverage green investment funding from European financial institutions, and increasing resilience to climate change and environmental protection in vulnerable countries. The SWITCH Asia programme is part of this initiative. SWITCH aims to reduce the environmental impact of industrial activities, enhancing the competitiveness of local micro, small, and medium sized enterprises, changing consumption practices, and providing policy recommendations for development agendas at various levels.
Higher education remains a strategic sector to advance sustainable development and poverty reduction in Asia. Our support through the Erasmus+ programme is highly sought-after by Asian partner countries.